PhD in Computer Science

We welcome graduates with good academic potential and strong interest in research to be a part of the premier research-based programme leading to a doctoral degree.

Students in this programme spend the first two semesters on advanced courses before embarking on a research project that culminates in a research dissertation.

Detailed information on the research interests of our faculty members can also be found here.

Structure of Programme

All graduate research students are admitted directly into a full-time graduate programme that leads to either:

  • Doctor in Philosophy (PhD), if the candidate passes the Qualifying Examination (QE); or
  • Master of Science (MSc), if the candidate fails the Qualifying Examination but is allowed to complete as an MSc candidate

PhD students admitted to the Department of Computer Science (CS) will follow the structure for the CS PhD programme:

Structure of PhD Programme (Computer Science)
Year 1 Semester 1 8 units coursework + CS6101 (Exploration of CS Research)
Semester 2 8 units coursework + Research
Year 2 Semester 1 8 units coursework + Qualifying Examination (QE)
Semester 2 Research
Year 3 Semester 1 Research + Thesis Proposal/Doctoral Seminar
Semester 2 Research
Year 4 Semester 1 Research
Semester 2 PhD Defense (Seminar Presentation + Oral Defense)

Coursework Requirements

All CS PhD candidates must complete the number of courses as indicated in the above structure.

For CS PhD candidates who are required to complete 24 units, the courses must satisfy all of the following three conditions:

  1. At least 12 units must be at level 6000, and at least another 8 units must be at level 5000 or above.  Only a maximum of 4 units level 4000 is allowed.
  2. At least 16 units must be offered by the CS department.  CS PhD students may take at most 8 units of courses at level 5000 or above offered by other departments.
  3. At least 4 units each in any three of the five clusters:
    • Algorithm and Theory
    • Computer Systems
    • Knowledge Systems
    • Media Technologies
    • Programming Language and Software Engineering.

    The cluster of courses can be found in this Annex (PhD). Note that courses not listed in the Annex may still be used to meet Conditions (a) and (b).

  4. At most 4 units can be CS/CU-graded.

Students should complete all coursework requirements by the end of third semester.

CS6101 Exploration of Computer Science Research aims to introduce CS research students to various CS research areas in the form of study groups. This course will not be considered as one of the level 6000 coursework requirements.

PhD Qualifying Examination (QE)

The QE is to be taken by all postgraduate students, and the PhD candidate must pass his/her QE 18 months after admission. A maximum of two attempts will be allowed. Candidates are allowed to take the QE earlier than the specified period. There is no exemption of the QE. The PhD QE will be offered twice a year, at the end of each semester for CS candidates. The research scholarship will be terminated the moment a student fails the QE. He/She will complete the rest of the degree requirements as an MSc candidate.

PhD students taking the CS QE are evaluated based on a research-based paper which should contain critical review of research papers and demonstrates problem-solving abilities of the student, both assigned by the student’s advisor. The QE paper will be assigned according to one of the following six research clusters for evaluation:

  1. Algorithms and Theory
  2. Computer Systems
  3. Database and Data Mining
  4. Media
  5. Programming Languages and Software Engineering

Each cluster forms a 2-member panel to evaluate all the students and their QE papers in the cluster. Students will be required to give a presentation to the panel.

PhD Thesis Proposal / Doctoral Seminar

The Thesis Proposal is an important component of the PhD programme. It should highlight the significance of the research topic, its goal, the approach adopted, and work to be done. It should be precise and convincing to the examiners that the candidate is proposing a novel area of research and the goal is achievable.

A PhD candidate must pass his/her thesis proposal by the end of Year 4. The proposal will be examined by two faculty members of SoC who are familiar with the area of research in the proposal. A maximum of two attempts are allowed.

The PhD candidature of a student will be terminated if s/he fails to pass the Thesis Proposal. Such student, subject to the approval of the School, may proceed to obtain an MSc degree by completing a dissertation and meeting all the requirements of an MSc degree.

The Thesis Proposal comprises of an open seminar presentation (doctoral seminar), followed by a closed-door oral examination.

The doctoral seminar is a public talk that is open to both staff and students, and should take about 30 minutes. The seminar, which should include any research findings or work from published papers, will be graded on a satisfactory/ unsatisfactory (S/U) basis.

A close-door oral examination will follow after the seminar presentation. The student is expected to answer satisfactorily any questions raised by the evaluators.

PhD Defense

The PhD Defense will be pre-scheduled when the candidate submits his/her thesis. It will comprise of an open seminar presentation, followed by a close-door oral examination.

Seminar presentation should take about 30 to 40 minutes. This will be a public talk open to both staff and students. After the presentation, a 10-minute Q&A session will be available for the public.

A close-door oral examination will follow after the seminar presentation. The student is expected to answer satisfactorily any questions raised on the subject matter pertaining to her/his research thesis and related subjects.

This oral examination will be conducted by a 3-member panel that is chaired by the Head or nominee.

Duration of Programme

The maximum candidature period inclusive of periods of approved study leave for PhD programme is 5 years.

Language of Instruction

The language of instruction for the graduate programmes is English.